So, here we are on a 10-month journey around the world. We get asked, often, how we can afford such an ‘extravagant’ trip. We giggle a little and explain that our trip is anything but ‘extravagant’. We are getting to see places that many people, including us, have always dreamed about, but once we got here we tried to live the same kind of lifestyle that we had back in the U.S.A. Which was definitely not extravagant.
Getting ourselves out of the high priced excursions, eat-out-every-night and pampered vacation mindset was essential. We are travelers on this trip, not vacationers. If you are unaware of the difference, click here. Below is a short list of ways to save money while on the road. Some tips could save you thousands and some only a few bucks, but every dollar counts. In some countries an extra $50 could pay for a week’s worth of lodging.
Volunteer and stay for FREE:
For any trip that you take there are going to be two main expenses: Airfare and Accommodation. In Bangkok, Thailand hotel rooms can cost you anywhere from $50-120/night. Ouch. We don’t have that kind of money for the length of this trip, so we looked for more affordable options. One of the first websites recommended to us was www.WorkAway.info. It is an online community for travelers with over 31,000 active hosts from 170 countries looking to share their culture, languages, communities, projects and families.
There is a yearly fee to be a part of Workaway (browsing is free), but once you are a member you can contact hosts from all over the world. Most hosts offer a bed and free wifi, but some also throw in meal(s), taking you on tours and other benefits in exchange for a few hours of work each day. The work varies at each location depending on what the host needs. On our current trip, we have stayed for free by doing house chores, co-hosting a cooking class, teaching english to students, organizing a bicycle shop and producing videos and websites to help our hosts advertise their business. Thus far, we have done this for 7 of our 8 weeks abroad saving us over $2,400! (based on Bangkok hotel prices)
Don’t want to work?:
I hear you. You may have worked so hard to afford your trip and the last thing you want to do is continue working while you venture around the world. Hostels are a great option to still save on your expenses. They are normally very cheap to stay in a shared dorm-room, but even the private rooms can be 50% the cost of a standard hotel room.
When we don’t feel like working or are only going to be in town for a night or two, we always book a hostel.
Don’t buy ‘American’ food:
If you are traveling to a well-known travel destination the local business owner will try to cater to you so you don’t feel so out of your comfort zone, at a raised price. The food industry is no different. You will be able to find cheeseburgers, pizza and french fries in most cities (which is good for picky kids). You will find that the food that reminds you of home is far more expensive than the food from the country you are in. Many ingredients that are prevalent in American food is hard to come by in other locations, especially beef. They will often advertise a burger made with a different protein for a lower cost, but a beef hamburger will cost you.
For a price comparison, when we visited Chiang Mai, Thailand the three of us were eating lunch at a local restaurant and spending a total of $2.95. This is a steal by any standard, but when you see that a plain hamburger and fries cost $3.50 it is easy to see why having flexible taste buds can help your budget tremendously.
Don’t be scared of using public transportation:
Trying to find my way around a new country can be a bit overwhelming for me. Sometimes there is no English to help guide us to our destination and I will stress out and hail a taxi. While this does calm me down momentarily, I find myself stressing about our budget as soon as I see the meter stop. This is where Rian is super valuable (in a monetary sense… lol). She doesn’t mind jumping onto google maps and tracking out the best method to get us from point A to B. She will copy the directions and photos of the map into our phones and off we go.
In Kuala Lumpur, we wanted to see the giant Petronas Twin Towers and take our photos near the fountains. We decided to take an Uber from our homestay and by U.S. standards it was very cheap, costing only $6.30. We felt a bit more confident on the way home and decided to take the monorail. A 5-minute walk to the station and a short ride later we were a half-mile from our homestay and had only spent $2.20. We understand that $4.10 is not earth shattering, but if you ride the monorail all week instead of Uber cars or taxis you could save $100, easily.
All the major cities that I have been to have offered multiple ways to get around. Bangkok had a subway, sky-train, bus system and tuk-tuks as alternatives to traditional taxis. Don’t be afraid to use what the locals use. They’ve lived there and have found what the best deals are to get you where you need to go. Which brings me to my next tip…
Talk to the locals:
Most of the people we have met on this trip have been excited to share their culture and city with us. Tell them what your plans are and how you plan to get there. You will know immediately if you have made a good plan or you are getting ripped off, by the face that they make. They might give you a better set of directions, a cheaper way to get there or they may even offer to take you there without charge (this has happened to us a few times).
One of the employees from our hostel in Bangkok took us, on his day off, onto the bus and subway and led us to the Rod Fai Night Market to try tasty foods. We might have gone to this market without him, but he knew the most efficient way to get around and it was great having a guide to ask questions to throughout the night.
Staying aware of your budget is the key to having the experience that you always dreamed of. No one wants to end their trip early or make the dreaded call to your friends and family begging them for money. These tips have already saved us thousands of dollars and will do the same for you. If you know of any tips for saving money while traveling leave them in the comment section below.